Types of Mesothelioma

The mesothelium, a layer lining the cavity of many vital organs, serves to release a lubricating fluid that allows the movement of organs such as the lungs, heart and those inside the abdominal cavity.

When potential mesothelioma symptoms surface, a patient should inform a doctor of any previous asbestos exposure. Patients who receive a mesothelioma diagnosis often do not show symptoms of the cancer until years later. By that time, it is generally too late to begin successful mesothelioma treatment.

A doctor can best advise a patient on which type of mesothelioma is present and which form of treatment would work best on an individual basis.

Pleural mesothelioma
This form of mesothelioma occurs in the protective lining around the lungs and respiratory area, and is most commonly the result of asbestos exposure. Pleural mesothelioma causes pleural effusion, an excessive buildup of fluid around the lungs, which may cause symptoms including severe chest pain, weight loss, shortness of breath, fever or a persistent cough.

However, the appearance of any of these symptoms is not always associated with the presence of mesothelioma. These symptoms can point to any of a number of other asbestos-related diseases, which is why consulting a doctor is so important. A computed chest tomography (CT) scan is the most common test for this type of mesothelioma, Pleural mesothelioma lungwhich allows doctors to evaluate the extent of a patient’s mesothelioma by detecting elevated serum levels.

Currently, surgery is the most common mesothelioma treatment. During the procedure, part of a patient’s lung or surrounding tissue may be removed to eliminate the tumor and cancer cells. Unfortunately, more than 70% of mesothelioma cases are too advanced for this treatment, as researchers have struggled to find an early indicator of mesothelioma. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are options for treatment. Symptoms of this form of mesothelioma can take decades to surface, often leading to a fatally late diagnosis.

Pleural mesothelioma victims typically survive for about 17 months after showing symptoms, and only about 5% of them live for another five years. The earlier the disease is spotted, the longer the average survival rate.

Peritoneal mesothelioma
This type of mesothelioma is less common than pleural mesothelioma and occurs in the abdominal cavity, attacking the liver, spleen and bowels. Like pleural mesothelioma, this is an asbestos-related cancer. Peritoneal mesothelioma causes the abdomen to enlarge as fluids in the cavity lining build up and create symptoms which can include nausea, fever, vomiting or loss of appetite.

In addition, a mesothelioma tumor that originates in the abdominal region can spread, causing similar symptoms in other parts of the body. Like the other two forms of mesothelioma, peritoneal mesothelioma symptoms can take years to surface—causing a delay in treatment. Removing part of the lining and tissue of the abdomen is one option, but it depends on the extent of the cancer. Doctors may also suggest chemotherapy or radiation therapy for this cancer, which currently has no cure.

The survival rate for peritoneal mesothelioma is gloomier than that for pleural mesothelioma, with the average patient living for just 10 months after the onset of symptoms.

Pericardial mesothelioma
Pericardial, the rarest form of mesothelioma, is also caused by exposure to asbestos. This type of cancer attacks the lining of the heart and causes the serious symptoms, including persistent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitations.

Unlike pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma, surgery is not a common form of treatment for pericardial mesothelioma. Because this form of the disease is often more advanced than the other forms, it is unlikely that all tumors or damaged cells can be removed even if surgery is performed. Doctors instead typically suggest radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

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